By Festus Okoye
The National Assembly also deleted section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 which provides that where a Political Party fails to comply with the provisions of the Act in the conduct of its primaries its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue. While section 97 of the original Act has 11 subsections, the amended Act has 10 subsections.
The National Assembly was not done with whittling done the regime of internal democracy and tying the hands of the Independent National Electoral Commission. They also inserted a proviso to section 31(1) of the Act to the effect that the Independent National Electoral Commission must accept the list of candidates a party proposes to sponsor and shall not reject or disqualify candidates for any reason whatsoever.
These amendments returned the parties to the stranglehold of the Governors and the Godfathers who used the opportunity to “doctor” the list of delegates. Some coerced aspirants to drop their ambitions ostensibly on grounds of achieving consensus. Others submitted a different list to the Independent National Electoral Commission not being the list of the candidate that won the party primary elections. Some of the Political Parties gave aspirants prior prepared letters of candidates’ withdrawal to sign before the primaries because section 33 of the Electoral Act provides that a Political Party shall not be allowed to change or substitute its candidates whose names have been submitted to it except in the case of death or withdrawal. This also accounts for the opportunistic and shameless platform shopping amongst some of the aspirants who are jumping from one political party to the other in search of platform.
It can be seen that the deluge of cases in court arising from the conduct of party primaries is a direct consequence of the unconscionable doctoring of the Electoral Act to achieve undemocratic ends. It is also clear that the politicians are making desperate efforts to take control of the judicial process and deceive and dictate to the courts what should happen prior to and during the elections in terms of litigations.
We also have cases of rising political intolerance and dictatorship in some of the states. Opposition candidates are arrested at will and denied their freedom of expression and the freedom to campaign. Other have their offices bombed and supported killed, maimed or arrested.
There is also no assurance as at today that the security agencies share the vision of the Independent National Electoral Commission on free, fair and credible elections. There are no signs that any serious training for the security agencies on election security has started. There is no sign that flashpoints have been identified and constituencies properly mapped out for purposes of strategic deployment of security forces during the elections.
All these challenges notwithstanding, the Nigerian people have shown that elections do matter and are resolved to contribute their own quota to improve the regime and climate of elections. They also expect, require and desire that the Independent National Electoral Commission should be firm, courageous and impartial in dealing with the challenges of the electoral process.